Voices: Five People With Ideas for a Fractured City

Fixing what ails Portland is going to take work.

Not in living memory has a new year found Portland facing such unease—and exhaustion.

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed bedrock fractures in The City That Works that had been widening long before the virus. Yet last year, Portland set an unenviable new record—citizens were murdered, killed in fires, or died in vehicle crashes at rates not experienced in more than three decades.

Turning a calendar page didn’t solve the problems. In the first 72 hours of 2022, Portland saw three homicides, two traffic deaths, and four people were seriously burned while trying to keep warm while living outdoors.

Fixing what ails Portland is going to take work.

We often open the new year with an issue dedicated to listening. We call it Voices—an opportunity to hear how people living in or near Portland feel about the city. This year, hearing new ideas felt unusually urgent.

We spoke to five people who are making demands for change. One of them is the moral authority who calls for drivers to slow down, while another is a teenager trying to halt highway expansion. One man sees the suffering of children left to fend for themselves when classrooms went dark, and a woman brings healthy meals to sex workers. And for the first time, Betsy Johnson—the former lawmaker seeking to become the first woman in U.S. history to be elected governor as an unaffiliated candidate—discusses her policy prescriptions.

The following pages contain no cure-all. The people we interviewed don’t agree on an overarching solution for civic woes. What they do share is a conviction that the status quo is unacceptable, and a willingness to apply themselves to trying something different.

These are their resolutions.

Betsy Johnson

Ashton Simpson

Nikeisah Newton

Pedro Anglada Cordero

Adah Crandall

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.